The World Methodist Museum at Lake Junaluska is believed to have the single largest collection of Wesley artifacts of any institution, and on Sunday, 20 September, it unveiled another major item: a chest on chest that belonged to the Most Rev. John Wesley was gifted to the Museum.
Approximately 4’ x 6’ (approx. 122 cm x 183 cm), this imposing piece was given by Sue McCrory of San Antonio, Texas, in memoriam to its former owner, the late Dr. Pearl L. Zink. A faded and fragile paper pasted in a top drawer explains that it was owned by Wesley, and later by Lord Kitchener. History shows that one of the Kitcheners was friends of one of Charles Wesley’s son.
Dr. Zink died in 2008, but had asked Mrs. McCrory to “find a permanent home for this very special piece. We decided that should be with the Methodist Church, and I vowed to make this happen,” a letter from Mrs. McCrory reads. The letter was read aloud in its entirety at the unveiling. “To conclude, our precious chest is exactly where it should be. I know it will be cherished. Both my grandmother and Pearl must be singing in heaven, for both their wishes have been fulfilled. I told Jackie [Bolden], someone was whispering in my ear the day I contacted the Museum. I would like to think so, perhaps an ancestor, my grandmother or Pearl.” Mrs. McCrory said her grandmother was from North Carolina and always spoke of it fondly and lovingly. She said Haywood County roots include the Fines Creek area and Nolands, Russells, Rheas, Rogers, Milners and others.
At the special Sept. 20 unveiling ceremony, attended by a standing-only crowd in the Museum, the furniture was unveiled with special remarks by World Methodist Council General Secretary Bishop Ivan Abrahams. He thanked those involved in making this possible. He also stated that the Museum’s valuable content needs to be available to more people throughout the world and an effort is being made to allow this through video and web, as well as to make the Museum more interactive to those visiting in person.
The Friends of the Museum paid for the moving costs and Friends President, the Rev. Dr. Donald Rankin, welcomed those attending the event. Also on the program were the Rev. Dr. Jim Gilland, Museum Director Jackie Bolden, harpist Balfour Knight and vocalists Susan Gaddy and Carol Lynn Knight.
Since Wesley was known for “scanty but choice” furniture, according to a former Warden of the Old Rectory in England, attendees were asked to surmise what Wesley might have kept in the chest. Answers included an outfit for himself in the top and two to be given away in the bottom; tracts and maps; Bibles, communication with other religious groups; sermons he was working to complete; Charles Wesley’s early book of hymns and so forth. “It seems no one thought it would be full of a personal wardrobe as might be the case today since people in the 1700’s had very few sets of clothes, no matter where they were in the world or their status,” Bolden commented.
The Museum is free and open to the public Tuesday through Saturday year-round from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Special groups are also welcome at other hours by appointment by calling (828) 456-7242 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out more about the museum at methodistmuseum.org.